Oshkosh’s Wittman Regional Airport once again has become the world’s busiest airport this weekend as tens of thousands of people came flocking in for the Experimental Aircraft Association’s AirVenture 2015.
“Welcome to Oshkosh, and have a great day,” was the familiar greeting from the control tower as hundreds of aircraft from around the globe touched down Sunday on the EAA grounds. For many, the experience is a long-standing tradition.
Among those who arrived Sunday, July 19, was Wayne Hagan, 80, of Paducah, Kentucky, a retired U.S. Navy commander turned civilian pilot who flies an experimental biplane and has been attending AirVenture for 14 years.
“My father was a pilot and taught me to fly,” Hagan said. “As I was watching these guys land today, I was in awe at the amount of judgment and decision-making that go into it, and I like that challenge.”
Just to the south of Runway 27, Barry Hammarback and his daughter, Arriety Lowell, both of River Falls, were taking in the view in the shade of their Huey D/H helicopter as aircraft touched down Sunday afternoon. A regular AirVenture attendee since 1972, Hammarback missed only a few years when his children were little.
“Don’t let me be your excuse,” Lowell said with a laugh.
The family will spend the week in Oshkosh but unlike their usual practice, they flew in on the Huey and joined its vintage military cousins just north of Warbird Alley, instead of the Seaplane Base on Lake Winnebago.
“It’s fun to come here and see what all resources are out there,” Hammarback said. “I enjoy every bit of it.”
For Lowell, a physics lecturer at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, her enthusiasm and passion for aviation started at a young age.
“I’ll forever be thankful to my parents for helping and supporting my passion,” she said. “I remember sitting at the Phoenix Air Force Base and crying because I wanted to fly the planes. I’ve been flying ever since.”
Taking what she learns at AirVenture, Lowell said she’s able to return to UW-River Falls and help her department better prepare students who want to find jobs in the aviation industry.